It was 1988. Cathy Jess was a new Ripon resident, and a youngster with the state Department of Corrections.

   Among her charges at Columbia Correctional Center, where she worked at the time, was a young man.

   “When he was 17 at Columbia, he wasn’t the best behaved individual,” Jess recalled.

   But as the years progressed, Jess and this offender would cross paths time and again at various corrections facilities.

   Just recently, Jess saw the now not-so-young man once more.

   “I was up at McNaughton Correctional Center, which is a minimum security center,” Jess said of the facility in Lake Tomahawk, Wis. “I walked into this center — this was about three weeks ago — I saw an individual I had known from 1988 ...

   “He came up to me and was just — I was excited to see him, and see him at minimum [security] ... He was just proud of what he has accomplished. It was just a proud moment for me to see him all these years later.”

   Success stories such as this remind Jess why she’s been in corrections for the past 32 years ...

   These days, she has the opportunity to do more than help a single inmate here or there. Her three decades in corrections has led her to the peak post in the state of Wisconsin in her field: state secretary for the Department of Corrections, where she oversees a $197 million budget and 10,000 employees who work with more than 66,000 inmates. 

Read the full story in the July 12, 2018 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.